Analysts and research firms can sit around trying to predict the size of the nascent electric vehicle market, all they really need to do is take a look at the Nissan Leaf, which just reached its goal of 20,000 pre-orders three months ahead of schedule. Pre-orders first became available in April.
Not everyone who pre-ordered will necessarily buy a Leaf, of course. A $99 reservation fee isn't enough to force people to follow through on their commitments. But it's certainly an encouraging sign for the $33,000 all-electric vehicle, which will be available throughout the U.S. by the end of 2011. Even if expected purchase orders don't pan out, Nissan can probably look forward to strong interest from customers who are willing to lease the vehicle for $349 per month.
The car company also hopes to drum up interest during the upcoming "Drive Electric" tour, which begins on October 1. The Leaf will make stops throughout the U.S. for public test drives and technology demonstrations. Because ultimately, familiarity may be the biggest barrier for mass adoption of the Leaf and other reasonably priced EVs—consumers will always be wary of what they don't know.